Posts Tagged '15 minutes'

Water sound water

Standing in the shower and the pipes are clanking and singing. I think there is a plumber in my garage, banging his wrench against the hot water heater. I think there is a criminal hiding in the crawl space, tapping at the brass piping with his keys, trying to frighten me out.
Standing in the shower I can’t stand all these stranger noises. Children crying, cats coughing, the shimmering sound of lizards running through dry grass.
I can’t stand these stranger noises in my home’s old plumbing. I get out of the shower, dress and go to Walgreens, where I buy a waterproof hanging shower audio system with mp3 capability and I hang it on the soap rack and crank it up.
The throat singers shuffling on the mp3 are deep as a broken water main. The clicking African women are knocking on my door. The rhythmic thrust of Spanish dance spills hot water from an overflowing bucket.
I am wishing for deafness, I think I am wishing for deafness. Deafness or just simple silence. Maybe there is silence somewhere in the world still, just like there may be a place without light in this world still. There is mua, absence of light and sound, somewhere, maybe in the dark of the ocean, where the far off drum of plumbing and the streaming red tail lights are out of range. Only the distance vibration, the hum of earth itself.
Standing in the shower, time to sing the morning shower song. Deciding to decode the sounds. Drip drip drip, rain and the end of drought. Swish swish swish, the tail of a brown trout in a clear green stream. Rushsssh, the falling of water over some high cliff into the white foam.
After I won the lottery, I had the best time ever. I had all the dry erase boards and dry erase markers I could ever want. I had a house on the beach. I had a piano. I’m still having the best time ever, except for this thing with the plumbing and the sounds, the lights, the jumping of grasshoppers, the pop of frogs.
I won the lottery and then all things were possible, all possible things were possible, and then everything got so big, so bright. White boards, running water, running cars, runways and airports and I went traveling. In Barcelona, I decide that water is okay, water is good. There is no criminal intent in water, no malice. I have an affair with a Spaniard whose name I can’t pronounce, so I only call him God oh God. It’s a good affair, and the water is okay now, the sounds are okay and the waves even, the waves at the ocean are inviting, cool blue white Mediterranean sighs.
It’s hard to have things, to have things, and hard not to have things, not to have things. I go back then, to my house with its old plumbing, its sinister flow, and I paint it, every room, the colors of water. The oily iridescence of gulf coast water, the angry blue of deep sea, the muddy green of old shallow rivers, the bright peaceful blue of a lake in British Columbia. Once it is painted, I leave again, to Peru, where I feel light headed and the pyramids are so big, so big, and I take a room on the second floor at the back of a bar where the open sign flashes on and off on and off all day and the flashing light covers the sound of beach, of wind, of toilets and sinks. I stay there for three weeks, watching the open sign blink its indifference at me, and when I go back home again, my water colored house is perfect, blue green white shiny perfect.

Felipe II

Felipe II was the finest creator and destroyer of roadside attractions ever seen along Route 66 back in the day. Or roadside distractions, as he liked to call them.  Felipe had quick and changeable interests. The plastic reproduction of the redwood forest in Chloride, Arizona held his interest until it was two-thirds completed, and now it lies, a city of cracked and petrified plastic wood, with bumper stickers fading on the date shake shack – from the gulfstream waters to the Chloride forest – and the exit itself is a cluster of broken asphalt, a closed, possessive world. Felipe never looked back, it was said. Rumor had it there was no Felipe I, that’s what they said.

Felipe II wore a quirky wood band around his head, giving him the look of a suffering Christ with the figure of a Bob’s Big Boy. He did not tolerate philosophical discussions, but he did love time and the road itself.

“The older I become,” he told me the day we met – the only time we met – “the more connections I can make between time, experience and place.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Nothing, what the hell do you think I mean?” He said, and pulled out his map of California. Death Valley – good place for a dinosaur museum and ice skating rink. The Thing – it is whatever you want it to be. Wherever you want it to be. The roadside fruit stands, the tarantula meandering across the yellow lines, the shimmering road itself. That was time. I think that was time. To Felipe. Every crack in the road, every fissure, was another idea, another tumbleweed, another billboard. Every 100 miles a sign said “next gas 100 miles, stop here!” and we did. We bought copper bracelets and moccasins, postcards and ashtrays, plastic fish skeleton combs, mirrors with dead city logos embossed on the back.

Felipe II died in Flagstaff in 1982. His body was taken by Mexican bandits and laid out on the top of a flat red butte, and there he rejoined the earth, turning slowly into Felipe jerky, lines of his life spreading out on the hot surface, still visible even 30 years later. A faint tracing, like an old town, you can see it still, if you can find the way up.


Six fingers

I’m a nice girl from a good fucking home, excuse me. I’ve taught exercise classes since my sophomore year at Kent State. Pilates, spin, kick-boxing. Finally got my degree in exercise physiology and worked in a physical therapy clinic for a year. I quit the clinic to teach pole dancing at a very goddamn nice club not too far from my mother’s house. Pole dancing was new to Shaker Heights, but I told mother not to worry, it’s not a strip club, it’s just another way of staying in shape. She wasn’t too sure, still pushing me to get married and stop working, but I did eventually convince her to come to class and was surprised by how much she loved it. Mom clinging and grinding up and down that pole did something to our relationship, opened us up, once I got over my own embarrassment. She took to it easily.

One day after class she brought up my sixth finger. I shitfuck don’t have a sixth finger any more, had it removed surgically in fifth grade, just a little scar. She said, “Did you notice, that girl at the striped purple pole by the window? She’s got six fingers too, just like you.” I actually hadn’t noticed, but I did next time she came to class. Her name was Dierdre, and she was apparently yet another sister.

I remember the first time I met one of my siblings, wondering how many there were. The things my mother kept hidden from me were doled out in tiny little stages, first the notice that I’d hellfire been adopted, then gradually that I had a brother, then two, then some sisters, until finally I came to understand that I had at least a baseball team worth of siblings, and most if not all of them lived in Shaker Heights and all of them had or were born with six fingers, shithead fuckinghell. Dierdre was a nice girl, mild and easygoing. No cursing from her, she’s not a Tourette’s attraction like I am, just that extra finger, waving at me, saying look, we have a shared secret, don’t we?


(This is a fictional memoir, also written in 15 minutes.)


With stars *

Words are for those with promises to keep.

I have no promises. Shut the door, the stars
are not wanted just now, put out every one.

Everyone hates the bird with one wing. The bird
with one wing can’t fly, but man can she sing.

The sings she sings make me shell not stone,
I have no promises, make me blue and fragile,

I have no words. She is a spectacle, the angel
on top of the weeding cake. I have no promises,

I splatter my words, incoherent shards
that make a light nimbus against the wet

pavement on a night almost like this,
but with stars. With stars.


(found poem: take lines from existing poetry, recombine, make something new, voila! This is taken from Gertrude Stein, WH Auden, and Paula Gunn Allen, and was written in 15 minutes. It’s easy to go wild when Gertrude is there.)

The name of this piece is Susy made me write about sex

 Today is the day we discuss dental floss, sex and volunteerism. Pay attention; your licensure depends on your correct response to the quiz which follows this three hour training.

In front of you, you will find a small bag. Pick the bag up and open its contents onto the table. Very good. Read, follow the instructions, then wait.

If you are having sex while thinking about your hair thinning, the hole in your underwear, or the box of chocolates that you stashed in the back of the laundry room to keep your partner from devouring it before you get even a single piece, this could be a sign of pending or actual sexual discontent. Try this simple exercise: stand in the middle of the room, alone, mostly naked and say to yourself loudly and firmly: “Sex. Sex and more sex. Sex and sex again. Different sex, changing sex, kinky sex, decorator sex,“  If, while standing there saying sex and so on, you suddenly think about cleaning products, lists, email, dental floss, licensure and volunteering, stop stop stop. Shake your head three times like a golden retriever coming out of a cold lake.  Now smile and stick your hands down your pants, if you are wearing any. Remember, you are completely alone. No one is going to see you or hear you. Shake your hips. Does your underwear fit? Are you easily distracted? Does anyone in your household leave the toilet seat up in spite of 30 years of reminders? Stop stop stop. Okay. Take the underwear off. They are too big anyway. Put on something more comfortable. A pair of socks, say, and nothing else. Stand in your living room wearing nothing but a pair of socks and say to yourself “Sex. Sex and more sex. Sex and kinky sex. Sex and deviant sex. Sex and law breaking. Sex and jaw breakers. Sex and sucking. Sex and red hots. Sex and sex and sex.” Okay. Now think about the lawnmower, the weed whacker, the rust stains in your bathtub, the continuously whining dog standing just outside the door. Stop stop stop.

Put your clothes back on and go scrub the bathroom, brush and floss your teeth and make some phone calls about volunteering and renewing your license. Leave the toilet seat up as a protest. See if anybody cares. Get some freezer burned pistachio ice cream out of the fridge and eat it in front of the whining dog standing at the window. Think about your budget. Think about your garden. Think about the roses, the rose hips leaning heavily against the window. Think about the grapes hanging full and ripe, think about the sweet pears and the sparrows rustling in their late afternoon dust bath. Think about the dark fertile earth, think about the warm smells of fruit, herb and flower rising and mingling in the afternoon breeze. Think about the sweet sleepy sounds of animals in the quiet heat of the day. Think about lying down, just for a minute. Think about listening. Listen. Smell. Look. Touch.

Watermelon man

Watermelon man grew from a seed in his mother’s belly; she’d been eating watermelon in Pecos and playing miniature golf with the one man in her life and it was so good so sweet so juicy that she ate the melon seeds and all and then she got Jesus and her beautiful son all on one fine summer morning the usual months later. The baby was pink and raw, the melon was pink and raw, she saw Jesus in the rind and she named her son Peter and said to him Peter you will never deny the Lord and you will never walk away from the watermelon which gave you life. Well Peter grew up faster than he might have and he had his dark time, same as we all do, during which he drank vodka and sold musk melons to Siberian refugees in the sub-saharan desert. Musk melons and camels and vodka mixed up all wrong for Peter and he had to walk away from the musky temptations, the long hair and the horns, and he returned to the fields where melons grow green and blessedly hairless. Peter then grew to be a righteous man who grew melons for righteous men and each melon was blessed, each melon was washed in pink sweetness and each melon was taut and full of juice and seeds. Peter said thump them, that’s right, thump them here –  here, have a piece and he offered melon to stranger after stranger and his hands were stained the pink of Jesus melons. He sold melons on the side of the road in Pecos, he sold melons on the side of the road in San Antonio. He sold melons on the side of the road in Lubbock. He sold melons on the side of the road in Santa Rosa. He loved the pink sweetness of Santa Rosa’s name, but he never got settled, got settled and home until he sold melons, beautiful black diamond melons, in the shadows of the watermelon mountains. Each melon was blessed by Jesus, each melon was righteous and ripe, and he was so full of the life of the melon that when he spit out the seeds, watermelon man could hit the pink-stained moon rising over the Sandias every blessed time.

Chupacabra scat

At exactly 7:28 p.m., the chupacabra wakes up. Dinner time. His scabrous coat is mottled, small scars crossing large ones. His right front canine is missing. He scratches, lifts and pees on the cowhide near the thorn bush that covers his den. That’s all that’s left of that cow, the large white spots stained now and comfortable as worn slippers. The chupacabra has one torn ear. His name is Earlio. He is the earliest chupacabra in the bosque this summer.  He has a yen for squidbird, which are rare and small but good in the plentiful months of summer. The biologist who watches him, who takes samples of his scat, cannot identify the squidbird feathers. They are, like the chupacabra himself, not in the books. And yet Earlio lives on a diet of mulberries, mice, crickets and squidbirds, as the biologist knows. His notes read “species unknown” whenever he describes the squidbird remains that he sees in Earlios leavings. The biologist, whose name is Dun, believes that Earlio is a coyote, and that there is no such thing as a squidbird or a chupacabra. The biologist perhaps suffers from a lack of information and a lack of faith. The evidence of his eyes argues with the evidence of his training and leaves only a question mark and a notebook and a small plastic bag of chupacabra poop labeled May 30, 2012.


On the Woodtangle Freeway, all the cars drive both too fast and too slow. That’s right. The monstrosity in front of you, the multi-level dead car stacker with the cross-country plates and the smell of burning breaks – drives too fast and too slow. Swerving. Bent mirrors, views from Nebraska but now we’re in Philadelphia and the mirror is all wrong, all wrong. To keep awake, to avoid the tour bus and the singing frogs, I chew bubblegum. My favorite flavor bubblegum is asparagus, which can only be ordered on the internet. When I stop in Nebraska, Arkansas, North or South Dakota or Oklahoma, I strip off my day clothes and climb into the back of my Very Big Truck in my underwear and order bubblegum and red meat off the internet. Don’t order red meat from Amazon; order red meat from, where they know where their meat has come from, they know where their meat has been, they’ve driven their meat from here to there, through the simplicity of piano concertos on public radio stations from the redwood forest to the gulfstream waters, this meat was drove for me and you. And the truck driver, who could be you or me, is a minister of road wisdom and road rage; isn’t that the way it is, that the most spiritual among us here in Walmart America is also the most likely to be alone, blessedly alone on mile after mile of the brilliant highways of the CCC.

When you sit alone in an 18-wheeler, you can belch or flatulate, you can sing hymns or say prayers, you can curse or praise, you can be a zealot. You are alone, you road warrior, you road guru, you road map you. The path ahead of you is behind you as well, a bead on a string, a tale being told, a verse, held up to the unfolding sky and the stars that lie down on that winding ribbon. You’ve been telling them, you and me, this land, this land, but they look at you like you are a crazy; to believe in us, in the collective, is like believing in the giant squid, is like believing in solid gold silk, is like believing in wonder or white owls or sugar cookies or aliens. But to be a road agnostic is to allow for wonder, to allow for the open space between exits where tales might hover, lonely but waiting, for someone to paint that ribbon all the way  from here up into the clear blue sky.


It was more than one thing that drove Hilary mad. For example: her brother was sitting in a lime green deck chair, chewing on his pencil.  He was talking about turtles, in that weird creepy way that made her want to grab the picture of the turtle off the desk and tear it into teeny tiny shreds and throw them in his weird creepy face. From the hole in his sock to his crooked umbrella, he epitomized everything loathsome to Hilary.

We found some letters from Amsterdam in a trunk in the back of the laundry room. The laundry room smelled like my grandmother, or possibly like everyone’s grandmother. Starchy. The trunk was well sealed, and contained the letters and odds and ends of a long-gone relative, Charlotte, to her school mate, Sheila. The letters were silly and full of petty complaints, as is typical of school girls.

“On Tuesday, Margaret told me she liked the little oranges with the seeds better than the ones I brought. I hated her for that.” write Charlotte one rainy April. They’d had a fight, which settled itself in the next letter, with tears and protestations of love.

Sheila came to town to visit Charlotte later that month, and they went to a movie. The last time they’d been to a movie, it was silent except for the organ player in the orchestra pit. This time, full sound and it was an exciting event that carried over for at least two visits, with much admiration for the leading man and comparisons made to the leading lady and her big dark eyes.

Shortly thereafter, Donald began to appear in Charlotte’s letter. They were neighbors or friends or cousins; it was not altogether clear. They had scones and tea, they went to the movies, they laughed a lot, and they tried on scarves together on one outing. Then came this: that Donald liked hats and could write with both his right and left hands, and that that’s what he’d been doing on the day before he killed Sally.




The tribe named me, so in courage I shall live. That’s what I said, and that’s what I meant. The grandmother said stop, stop, stop child, whatever the tribe named you is silent now. No language left, no names allowed in missionary schools and turning back on her I left like sand blown across dry miles to where I could keep my name without caution, without whisper, without fear.

Where I moved, west coast, Oregon near the Washington state line, there’s some Lakota, some Puyallup, some stragglers from the dry lands like me.  Dine. We got the same hello for each other, though, reaching the lips and turning the eyes away, yata-hey brother. Quiet people, some of us, out there silent with the clams and strong runners upstream or down, don’t matter. When I moved there, I won’t say the name of the town, cause history is full of shame, it was a settlement, just new built, for Japanese families, those same families that came across from who-knows-where on iron rails, iron horses, iron and blood carrying loss and history all across the country or all across the sea from where the sun is wide. Planting berries, flowers, gardens like poems. All pulled up or left behind. I can’t make a phone call; the switchboard is always closed. I am lonely with these lonely people, their language not mine and not the common language of outside the camp either.

Unless they get dented or rusted, tracks last a long time. Story tellers last a long time too. In the rounded huts of the Japanese settlement, I learned new words, genke desu, konichiwa, hottoitenka. They learned new words, too. The word for interment – camp;  food – chow; a meeting point for noses – spam, shit on a shingle, hash. Ugly words, yes – we could agree on these when we met in the open yard after meals, before lights out, all of us there for the interim. Interred for the interim, high fences, hard lights. Hiragana, good night, my temporary friend. Yá’át’ééh hiiłchi’į’ Good night, stranger, good night friend.

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July 2020